BalkanBlog, MENA, Middle-East

Reality Check Time of Mideast Peace Process

The Mideast peace process is now on the edge of collapse and the parties desperately are looking for a package of measures which would be the basis for extending talks beyond the original deadline at the end of April 2014. Ironically one could note that now talks are ongoing only to find whom to blame about failure of peace process.

peace logoThe Obama administration’s efforts to impose a peace settlement seems to be a disastrous failure despite whether the negotiations formally break down or a face-saving formula is adopted which is nonbinding and incorporates sufficient reservations to make it meaningless. It seems that U.S. is preparing for a possible reduction of its involvement in the Israel-Palestinian peace process and Obama administration is taking position that Israel and Palestinians need to work through current deadlock themselves. Abed Rabbo (SG of PLO) might hit the nail on the head saying “We can’t return to the empty routine, a search for a framework for talks – this empty routine which is negotiating about negotiating,”.

Is it time issue a death certificate for the peace process or keep the facade?

The apparent breakdown in the American-brokered Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is a good time to re-evaluate basic assumptions of the diplomatic process. As reports about possible deal and even changes for deal differ it remains to see if there will be extension of negotiations or not. Even if formal meetings take place the peace deal in my opinion would be extremely unlikely. “The way it’s looking now, the talks as they were several weeks ago are no longer relevant. Last week’s package deal (offered to the Palestinians) is now off the table and Israel is preparing to return to routine dealings with the Palestinians as they were before the negotiations started nine months ago,” one official said. “As far as we’re concerned, the coordination on the ground with the different security forces continues, but the peace process is no longer relevant,” he added. (Source: YnetNews )

mideast peace talks

However Channel 2 reported that based on a source in Washington Israel and the Palestinians were close to finalizing a deal that would see peace talks extended by nine months. Also the head of the Arab League – Nabil Elaraby – said he was confident that Israel and the Palestinians would resolve the crisis soon and extend peace talks beyond April. (Source: The Times of Israel )

The Palestinians reportedly issued a long list of new preconditions for resuming talks — demands that Israeli officials privately dismissed immediately. These preconditions, according to the Ma’an news agency, included a demand for official Israeli agreement to the establishment of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital; the release of 1,200 Palestinian prisoners including convicted terrorist chiefs Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat; a building freeze in East Jerusalem and the West Bank; granting Israeli citizenship to 15,000 Palestinians under a family reunification program; the termination of Israel’s security blockade of Gaza; permission to bar the IDF from West Bank Area A (areas under full PA control) for entrance to arrest or kill terror operatives; and increased Palestinian control in Area C (areas under full Israeli control). (Source: The Times of Israel ) However, according to Haaretz, Erekat denied that his team presented such a list, arguing instead the demands had been issued by Fatah officials, rather than the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation), and did not represent the official Palestinian negotiating position.


A potential deal which would extend final status negotiations between the two sides for a further year would include a Palestinian commitment not to make use of international conventions they have already joined and suspend additional applications for membership. In exchange, Israel would go ahead with the suspended release of the fourth group of 26 prisoners serving long sentences for terror offences agreed in July 2013, including Arab-Israelis. Israel would further release hundreds of additional Palestinian prisoners described as “high calibre,” and also agree to a quiet freeze on settlement construction. It is expected that the deal will include the release from prison of Jonathan Pollard, a former US intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel 30 years ago.

Unilateral options

After Israel initially postponed the fourth prisoner release, Abbas retaliated by resuming efforts to win further recognition of a state of Palestine, over Israeli and U.S. objections. Among Palestinians, lead negotiator Saeb Erekat recommended his government unify with militant groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad – designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. – to govern the Gaza Strip. Probably the PA would now continue their unilateral steps by applying to numerous other international organizations, including pushing for boycotts of Israel and seeking legal rulings against Israel via international courts in The Hague. Earlier the Palestinian leadership was planning to apply for member in 48 additional international treaties if peace talks with Israel failed. The immediate implications might be: international legitimization of the Palestinian appeal to the UN for recognition, with European backing, and a parallel intensification of the settlement boycott phenomenon – with it leaking across the Green Line – causing harm to the Israeli economy.

American legislators – in senate and Congress and both Republican and Democratic leaders – have expressed disappointment with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas’s latest move – applying for membership in United Nations organizations as the “state of Palestine.” Both said that the U.S. should seriously consider cutting aid – about $400 million annually from the US – to the PA if Abbas continues with the process. The PA’s applications are violating the agreed framework of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Israel area CFrom Israeli point of view if even three-state solution does not come true so then unilateral solution would be in my opinion the best option. To connect main blocs up to Israel will require a land swap of about 6% and 20-30,000 households will have to be absorbed back into Israel. That is doable as this has been almost accepted in previous talks at Camp David and Annapolis as well in Olmert’s proposal at last final status negotiations 2008. (More in PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace )

Recently Mr Yoaz Hendel (chairman of the Institute for Zionist Strategies ) offered his solution in his column in the Guardian as follows:

For the international community to remain relevant it must understand the restrictions and the available options. The most realistic practical option in the current circumstances is the drawing of borders along demographic lines. Most Palestinians (98%) in the West Bank live in Areas A and B, under the control of the Palestinian Authority. These areas are spread over 40% of Judea and Samaria. Most Israelis live in 12% of the West Bank in large settlement blocks.
The remaining 48% of the territory has 100,000 Israelis and an equal number of Palestinians. The Palestinians’ territories should be upgraded to the status of demilitarised state with interim borders and continuity based on A and B. The large settlement blocks can be annexed to Israel, and as result of that the disputed territory would be immediately halved.
It is not a permanent solution, but it would be progress. If the money from the various pro-peace organisations were to be invested in the Palestinian education system, encouraging support for democracy, it would be possible to restart negotiations in a generation. If the international community can let go of its attachment to the phrase “an end to the conflict” who knows – maybe we will have a glimmer of a practical peace on the ground, which would improve the chances for a comprehensive peace in the future.

Indeed Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett has urged PM Netanyahu to turn his back on the failed negotiations and annex portions of the West Bank. In a letter to Netanyahu, Bennett requested “to have a session as soon as possible on an alternative plan (Plan B) to begin the process of applying Israeli sovereignty on areas in Judea and Samaria that are under Israeli control.” The economy minister listed some of the blocs he wants to annex, including Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim, the settlements of Ofra and Beit El and more. These areas are home to 440,000 Israeli settlers, Bennett argued, and only tens of thousands of Palestinians, and would therefore not cause a demographic crisis and undermine the Jewish majority. Bennett compared the process of absorbing these areas into Israel to the incorporation of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, and the Golan Heights during then-prime minister Menachem Begin’s reign. (Source: Times of Israel )

palestine mapAnnexation the main (settlement) blocs from sc Area C to Israel in my opinion means inheriting the arabs: Israel would be obligated – while excluding mass population transfer as option – to give the Arabs full citizenship which would change the demographic balance. Palestinians could then have full autonomy in areas A and Band most parts of area C. While the situation is not ideal, until the Palestinians agree to full peace with Israel, they could build capacity of their society as well be welcomed as neighbors in the Israeli economic system – participating in Israel’s commercial and creative life.

Negotiating about negotiating or minor points

The whole April so far has been mostly empty talks about wheater to negotiate after April or not. In addition issues outside this formality have in my opinion been only secondary ones. From my point of view the core issues are borders, Jerusalem, refugees and security. The dispute over recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is only secondary one and simply hides that chasm.

Recognizing Israel as ‘Jewish State’ has been from Israeli side a core element in peace deal as from my point of view it is only unnecessary and empty phrase. The Palestinians have already recognized the State of Israel de facto, through Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat and then by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas. In addition, the Arab peace initiative also officially recognized the State of Israel, as have Jordan and Egypt, which signed peace treaties with it. Moreover, Israel has no need of specific recognition by any country or entity. “‘Jewish state’ was resolved in 1947 in resolution 181, where there are more than 30 mentions of ‘Jewish state’ and this in my opinion should be enough. Even if that kind of formulation would be in agreement so what is the worth of this kind of lip-service without any commitment from PA side.

West bank settlements mapSpeaking about settlements one should note that besides allowing to build new homes in disputed territories Israel also tries to remove some illegal (according Israeli law) constructions and outposts. Last example was on 8th Apr. 2014 when Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers met with violent resistance from extremist Jewish settlers in the West Bank as they moved in to destroy four illegally constructed buildings in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar. Hundreds of settlers participated, throwing stones, burning tires, blocking roads, and damaging IDF vehicles. An IDF post in the area to protect the settlement was also attacked. The soldiers responded with riot dispersal methods. According to reports six soldiers and four settlers were hurt in the clashes. Yitzhar is a small mainly Orthodox settlement with a population of just 1000, situated just south of the Palestinians city Nablus in the northern West Bank. It is known as one of the most extreme settlements, and its residents have a history of clashes with IDF forces and local Palestinians. (Source: Bicom )

The Mideast peace process with or without Kerry

(Kerry) has come to us determined and is acting out of an incomprehensible obsession and a messianic feeling – (he) cannot teach me a single thing about the conflict … The only thing that can save us is if (he) wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us alone … The security plan is not worth the paper it is written on.” (Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon)


In wider perspective I have some doubts if the negotiations with PA will have real impact to the Mideast peace process. One should remember that with the exception of Fatah, all PLO factions were against the resumption of the peace talks under Kerry’s terms. These factions include the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Peoples’ Party, in addition to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. With this background the options of President Abbas and PA are quite limited.


One possible scenario could be a partial – temporary – deal; a gradual deal that would require neither dividing east Jerusalem nor an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, despite fears that any partial agreement will end up constituting a permanent arrangement the partial deal not necessry solve any core problems.


Failure with the Mideast peace process might be the last nail to Kerry’s Nobel Peace Prize coffin. “He doesn’t understand the situation on the ground,” Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said, adding that Kerry’s motives were illegitimate, “messianic” and “obsessive.” Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl echoed Yaalon’s sentiments, saying that the secretary was “delusional” and “detached from reality.” At the same time, the Palestinians view Kerry as someone incapable of pressuring Israel and getting results, deeming him irrelevant.

From my point of view FM Kerry’s commitment to the success of the diplomatic process and the time he has invested in solving the Mideast problem, regardless of the other unresolved conflicts (Ukraine, Syria, Iran…) in the world, should to be appreciated. Regrettably, the U.S. intervention has only exacerbated the situation and even undermined the chances of low-profile interim progress and economic cooperation. One way to continue the Mideast peace process could be to dig the archives and pull out two or three documents bearing the signatures of various Israeli prime ministers, including the present one, dust them off and implement them. Fulfilling the existing agreements could completely change the skeptical and even gloomy mood hanging over the diplomatic negotiations. The United States, which was an active partner in formulating these documents and which provided them with its imprimatur, cannot absolve itself from them. (More e.g in Al-Monitor )

peace sign israelThe peace settlements between Israel and Egypt and Jordan were achieved because both parties sought to come to an accommodation. The U.S. did not then seek to impose solutions. It only became involved as a facilitator and honest broker after both parties had taken the initial steps and invited them.

Three State Solution(s)

One interesting approach for replacing two-state solution is a new kind of three-state solution proposed by Georgetown University lecturer Ori Z Soltes few years ago. In his article A Modest Proposal: The Three-State Solution he uses the experience of India and Pakistan. Having primarily Muslim Pakistan divided into two parts by primarily Hindu India proved disastrous for decades, until finally the two Muslim states were disconnected from each other, leaving one as Pakistan and the other as Bangladesh. Why not do the same with non-Israeli Palestine?


According Mr Soltes, this proposal would eliminate the main logistical complication pertaining to the communication between the two parts of the Palestinian state. The notion of creating a land corridor between Gaza and the West Bank, with a free flow of people and commerce between the two, seems ill-conceived as an on-the-ground practicality. It effectively cuts Israel in half: how do Israelis then flow from north to south of the corridor? There have been other proposals, for extensive connecting tunnels or bridges, but these, too, are a logistical challenge. Moreover, two separate states for Palestinians would accord more realistically with a key current political reality: Hamas controls Gaza and the Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank. Creating two separate states would allow each to develop according to its own plans.

The three-state solution would make it possible for Israel to focus toward normalized relations with the West Bank, PA-led Palestinians; and on defense measures with regard to the Gazans. The possibility of Hamas being voted out by the Gazan Palestinians themselves would increase. But the potential isolation might also increase the incentive for Hamas to accept peaceful co-existence with Israel.

The idea of Mr Soltes is different than that three-state approach, which I have propagated a half decade. There Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. From my point of view this solution is both pragmatic and doable and now more actual than ever as two-state solution is more and more utopia and road map towards it has been death for years. (More in A Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation Is On The Move and The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict )

The three-state solution essentially replicates the situation that existed between the 1949 Armistice Agreements and the 1967 Six-Day War. Beginning in 1949, Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip, Jordan occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and no Palestinian Arab state existed. In 1950, Jordan officially annexed the West Bank and granted the Arab residents Jordanian citizenship.

 

Potential scenarios

A monthly peace index, last published in March by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, found 69 percent of Israelis “somewhat don’t believe” or “don’t believe at all” that the negotiations will lead to peace. A poll conducted last month in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research showed that about three-quarters of those surveyed believed chances for establishing a Palestinian state in the next five years are “slim or non-existent.” (Source: The Jerusalem Post )

An face-saving win-win deal now could be following: The Palestinian Authority terminates their U.N. bid, Israel withdraw their plans for economic retaliation, the Palestinian prisoners who were going to be released are released, the U.S. releases convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, and possibly the Israelis make some muted statement about restraint on construction in disputed territories in the future. Each side would be able to state that had it not been for their tough actions, a deal would have been impossible.


intifada logoThe crisis in the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians has shaken up the Israeli political scene. The stability of the governing coalition has once again come into question, with Yisrael Beytenu’s leader, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, saying that he would prefer new elections over the release of more terrorists, and Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) calling for the formation of a new government comprised of the Left and haredi parties without holding new elections.

Publicly all sides want the peace talks to continue, but also know that they will not lead to anything. Negotiations and attaining a peace agreement that will, in the short-term, prevent regional violence and isolation of Israel, and in the long-term avoid a binational state with a Palestinian majority, are essential interests of the State of Israel. It is therefore believed that, just like in previous rounds of gestures to the Palestinians, Netanyahu will manage to reach a series of silent understandings with them and attempt to win their approval for a quiet freeze in settlement construction, rather than engage in a demonstrative release of terrorists. Such a scenario would grant Netanyahu another half a year of quiet and enable him to maintain the diplomatic status quo. In the end, however, even this six-month grace period will end, and Netanyahu will no longer be able to avoid anymore making political decisions and then the outcome might be that Netanyahu will be forced to make the necessary changes to his coalition.

In my opinion the situation now is leading Israel toward a de facto binational future toward one-state solution and this might be the worst option for both sides. If negotiations now fail so I think that unilateral moves might not be so bad idea. If three-state option can not replace the buried two-state solution so then the way forward for Israel seems to be annex the main settlements to Israel, finalize the security fence and wait if and when the Palestinian side and international facilitator want negotiate about some details based on this reality on the ground.

anti-obama plakat

Appendix:

An excellent background information in concerning the guidelines on European funding of Israeli entities in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories”:


ECI Open Letter to Ashton April 2014

israel peace sign

 

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BalkanBlog, crisis management

PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace

The biggest leak of confidential documents in the history of the Middle East conflict began on Sunday, 23th January 2011 by the Al-Jazeera website with Britain’s Guardian newspaper. A cache of thousands of pages of confidential Palestinian records covering more than a decade of negotiations with Israel and the US has been obtained by al-Jazeera TV and shared exclusively with the Guardian. The papers provide an extraordinary and vivid insight into the disintegration of the 20-year peace process, which is now regarded as all but dead.

The Palestinian Papers (“PaliLeaks”) show that Israel indeed had real partner with whom to negotiate issues such as borders, land swaps, settlements, refugees, Jerusalem and even recognition Israel as Jewish state. The authenticity is accepted by both sides. While the greater Middle-East is now in turmoil due the coup in Tunisia, PaliLeaks are causing shockwawes among Palestinians and in the wider Arab world. The papers are giving also perspective to possibilities for two-state solution and US facilitation, mediation, to reach it.

The Palestine Papers

The Palestine Papers, released in the Al-Jazeera website, cover the negotiating period from 1999, before the Oslo process broke down in Camp David, up to the frozen peace talks in 2010. Al-Jazeera is publishing 275 sets of meeting minutes, 690 internal e-mails, 153 reports and studies, 134 sets of talking points and prep notes for meetings, 64 draft agreements, 54 maps, charts and graphs, and 51 “non-papers” – alltogether at least 1,684 documents. The documents revealed by Al Jazeera seems to be much more important than the documents recently released by WikiLeaks.

Some highlights of PaliLeaks are e.g. following details:

  • The scale of confidential concessions offered by Palestinian negotiators, including on the highly sensitive issue of the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
  • The Palestinian Authoroty agreed first that solely10,000 and finally 5,000 Palestinian refugees return to Israel as part of the Palestinian right of return.
  • Among other documents due to be released is an Israeli offer to transfer Israeli Arabs citizens to the territory of a future Palestinian state.
  • Recognition of Israel as Jewish state
  • How Israeli leaders privately asked for some Arab citizens to be transferred to a new Palestinian state while US proposed Palestinian refugees to be deported to Chile and Argentina
  • The intimate level of covert co-operation between Israeli security forces and the Palestinian Authority.
  • The central role of British intelligence in drawing up a secret plan to crush Hamas in the Palestinian territories.
  • How Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders were privately tipped off about Israel’s 2008-9 war in Gaza.

PA as Israel ally

When Palestine people gave a winning support to Hamas in relatively democrat elections many EU and US leaders made conclusion that voters made a wrong selection. To spread western values and real democracy some actions were taken. British intelligence – MI6 – had remarkable role in fight against Hamas. The bulk of the British plan has since been carried out by the West Bank-based PA security apparatus which is increasingly criticised for authoritarian rule and human rights abuses, including detention without trial and torture. The documents also highlight the intimate level of military and security cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli forces.

Moreover, Al-Jazeera revealed that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was personally notified by a senior Israeli official that Israel was planning an attack on the Gaza Strip, the night before Operation Cast Lead. Israeli and Palestinian officials reportedly discussed targeted assassinations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists in Gaza.

Refugees and their return

Many of the concessions have been considered non-negotiable in the past such as the right of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel. Palestine refugees are the people and their descendants, predominantly Palestinian Arabic-speakers, who fled or were expelled from their homes during and after the 1948 Palestine War, (some 750,000) and after the Six-Day War (1967) (280,000 to 325,000). UNRWA’s definition of a Palestinian refugee also covers the descendants of persons who became refugees in 1948. The number of Palestine refugees varies depending on the source. For 1948-49 refugees, for example, the Israeli government suggests a number as low as 520,000 as opposed to 850,000 by their Palestinian counterparts. As of January 2010, UNRWA cites 1,396,368 registered refugees in camps and 3,370,302 registered refugees not in camps.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert had agreed (2008) to a proposal that would have seen 1,000 Palestinian refugees given the approval to return to Israel over a space of five years. This would have resulted in a total of 5,000 refugees whose entrance into Israel would have been based on certain criteria and humanitarian grounds. By the following year (2009), PA main negotiator Saeb Erekat appeared to have accepted that choice.

Condoleezza Rice, the Bush administration’s secretary of state, wanted to settle displaced Palestinians in Argentina and Chile as an alternative to letting them return to former homes in Israel and the occupied territories. Rice made the proposal in a June 2008 meeting with US, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Berlin.

Ms Livni, meanwhile, repeatedly suggested a land swap with the Palestinians, so several Jewish settlements in the West Bank would become part of Israel while Israeli Arab were moved out of Israel. Correspondents say while this move would have been on a limited scale, it is the first time Israel has apparently suggested moving populations to either side of future borders, rather than just swapping land.

On 2004 there was a similar idea that Israel compensate the Palestinians with land occupied by Israeli Arabs. The Lieberman Plan, also known in Israel as the “Populated-Area Exchange Plan”, was proposed by Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the Israeli political party Yisrael Beiteinu. The Lieberman Plan only advocates ceding the Triangle Arab communities, the ethnic Druze community, which is pro-Israel, would also remain part of Israel. “Israeli Arabs will not lose anything by joining the Palestinian state. Instead of giving the Palestinians empty land in the Negev, we are offering them land full of residents, who will not have to leave their homes,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon in an interview to London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper published in early February 2010.

Where to draw borders

The settlements are a known issue of contention between Israel and the United States; although America has not supported their construction, it has, on some occasions, recognized the realities that have developed over 40 years. Improbability for two-state approach is big without massive withdrawals from Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where over 500,000 settlers now live. PaliLeaks are showing serious attemp to find a compromise between total withdrawal to the 1967 border and a redefined border through land swaps.


Latest proposal on 2009 included Israeli annexation of two percent of the West Bank and East Jerusalem adjacent to the 1967 line containing about 350,000 setters in big bloc settlements. In return, Israel would evacuate about 150,000 other settlers and transfer to Palestine two percent of its land, of equal quality, next to the southern West Bank and Gaza. Israel’s current leadership (which is dominated by the settler, religious and ideological right) as well as extreme Hamas elements would probably resist this, however leaked documents show that with current PA an agrement might be possible.

As well as the annexation of all East Jerusalem settlements except Har Homa, the Palestine papers show PLO leaders privately suggested swapping part of the flashpoint East Jerusalem Arab neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah for land elsewhere. Erekat told Israeli leaders in 2008: “This is the first time in Palestinian-Israeli history in which such a suggestion is officially made.” No such concession had been made at Camp David. But the offer was rejected out of hand by Israel because it did not include a big settlement near the city Ma’ale Adumim as well as Har Homa and several others deeper in the West Bank, including Ariel. the major territorial disputes remain over Ariel, Elkana, Ma’aleh Adumim and the Har Homa suburb of East Jerusalem (which was built after the 1993 Oslo Accords).

Speaking about borders one should note that Israel, in pre-1967 borders covers approximately 19% of British Mandate Palestine (of which 9% is the Negev dessert). The West Bank and Gaza cover approximately 7%, and Jordan covers approximately 74%.

U.S. land swap proposal

By coincidence same day when Al-Jazeera started to publish PaliLeaks, the New York Times published a map of a land-swap proposal prepared by David Makovsky of Washington Institute for Near East Policy , which indicates territory inside the Green Line that Israel would give to the Palestinians in return for the settlement blocs. Makovsky’s D.C. office is located near that of Dennis Ross, who serves as a senior adviser to the Obama administration in the peace process.

Now a Washington think tank with close connections to officials in both Israel and the United States has sketched out realistic borders for a new Palestinian state. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy/David Makovsky Strategic report Imagining the Border Options for Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Territorial Issue includes a series of maps showing detailed options for removing most of the West Bank from Israeli occupation.

According publisher in this new Washington Institute report, David Makovsky analyzes the intersection of demography and geography in the West Bank in order to demystify the territorial dimension of the conflict and facilitate peacemaking. Through detailed maps and in-depth population data, he shows how the parties can use land swaps to meet some of their most important goals, such as minimizing dislocation, ensuring security, and establishing a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank.

Two-State could have agreed many times during last 60 years

The Palestinians have been rejecting compromise deals that would have given them an independent Palestinian state (the first ever in history) for more than 60 years. They rejected United Nations resolution 181 in 1947 dividing the land west of the Jordan river into two states, Jewish and Arab. Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, rejected the Clinton proposals in 2000 at Camp David, and then walked away from the Taba negations in 2001 which would have given him virtually everything he had been demanding.

In November 2007, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the Bush administration convened in Annapolis with the unified goal of solving all outstanding issues. Annapolis provided the framework for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians toward bringing an end to the conflict and to all claims.

To this day, I cannot understand why the Palestinian leadership did not accept the far-reaching and unprecedented proposal I offered them. My proposal included a solution to all outstanding issues: territorial compromise, security arrangements, Jerusalem and refugees. ( How to Achieve a Lasting Peace: Stop Focusing on the Settlements By Ehud Olmert Israel PM 2006-2009)


Olmerts Final Status Map, West Bank & Gaza


Most recently, in the 2008 post-Annapolis negotiations, the Palestinians and Israelis almost finalized an agreement negotiated by the two sides. It was to include a Palestinian state on the about 95% of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem, with a land bridge connecting Gaza and the WB. There was to be a land swap between Israel proper and the remaining 5% of the WB along the proposed future border where most of the Jewish settlers live. Israel was also to pay compensation to the descendents of Palestinian refugees.

Alternatives for two-state

In their analysis ( Rethinking the Two-State Solution by Giora Eiland ) the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, concludes that two-state approach may be outdated. Instead they propose sc Jordanian option. Their proposal suggests that

rather than establishing another Arab state, the parties could return control over most of the West Bank to Jordan. Until recently, such an idea was rejected completely by everyone, especially the Jordanians themselves. Today, however, more and more Jordanians, Palestinians, and Israelis have come to believe that this is the right solution. If a Palestinian state is established there (WB), many fear that it would be taken over by Hamas. Such a scenario could have far-reaching consequences for Jordan. To be sure, the notion of pursuing alternative solutions is not yet politically correct, and therefore no official Jordanian or Palestinian support could be given to such efforts at the moment. Nevertheless, tacit support for this idea has been expressed in private talks.

For their part, many moderate West Bank Palestinians believe that an independent Palestinian entity in the West Bank and Gaza would not be a viable state. Sooner or later, this unstable situation would facilitate a Hamas takeover, and moderate Palestinians would prefer to live under a Jordanian regime rather than Hamas. It is important to note that most Palestinians never strove for an independent Gaza–West Bank state in the first place. They want to be free of Israeli occupation and pursue a normal life, but they do not much care about the exact form of the political solution.

The other two-state solution by Fred Schlomka

I have made same conclusions and propagated long – instead of dead road maps towards two-state – for “three-state” approach”, where Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. From my point of view this solution could be from administrative point of view stronger as well economically more sustainable. (More e.g. in The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict” ).

The three-state solution essentially replicates the situation that existed between the 1949 Armistice Agreements and the 1967 Six-Day War. Beginning in 1949, Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip, Jordan occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and no Palestinian Arab state existed. In 1950, Jordan officially annexed the West Bank and granted the Arab residents Jordanian citizenship. One may note that between 1949 and 1967 neither of those countries, nor any other voice in the Arab world or among the Palestinians, believed it was right to establish a Palestinian state in those territories, even as a temporary solution until the land was liberated in its entirety.

Motivation?

“If one day we see bloody riots in the West Bank similar to the ones we saw in Gaza, it would be worthwhile to go back to the latest al-Jazeera project. This is yet another step, and apparently a deliberate one, in weakening the PA, a move that one party stands to benefit from: The Hamas movement. It is for good reason that Hamas already uses the term “popular revolution” in its reports”

(Al-Jazeera helping Hamas by Roee Nahmias)

Why the PaliLeaks took place in overall, why they happened now and by whom? These questions are essential while thinking forward now stagnated Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The identity of the source for the Palestine papers is not proofed. However among PA there is strong suspicion that a former CIA agent (Clayton Swisher) and a former EU official (Clayton Swisher) were responsible for leaking the Palestine Papers. Also former Fatah security commander Muhammad Dahlan, who has been accused of planning to overthrow the PA leadership, is believed to help to lrak the documents to embarrass and discredit Abbas and his top negotiators.

Related to timing some observers think that the revelation of Palestinian negotiators’ willingness to compromise would not just offend Palestinian pride but instantly spark a wave of revulsion, leading to a Tunisia-style revolt against the PA. Also Hamas accused the negotiators of betraying the Palestinians. From the other side one can also claim that PaliLeaks are preparing Palestinian public opinion for the painful concessions that peace will, one distant day, require.

The first reaction among The Palestinian Authority was that the documents are “a pack of lies”, PA was accusing al-Jazeera of distorting the truth and quoting statements out of context. However after few days, when there were serious evidence that documents are based to facts, the PA (Erekat) said that “ the lesson that should be drawn from the documents is that the Palestinians are serious about peace”. Indeed, from Israeli perspective the Palestine papers are helping Israel to understand that there is a partner on the Palestinian side.

Follow-ups?

“Today it is also clear that the process did not fail and was not exhausted…A peace agreement that will end the conflict and protect the national and security interests of Israel is possible.”

(Tzipi Livni)

The two-state solution is now dead and buried by Israel and the PLO. Impossible for anyone (even the BBC) to pretend that there can be an independent Palestinian state. Now we know that the capitulation was total, but still the Israeli overlords of the PLO refused to sign a deal and their friends in the press blamed the Palestinians for being too difficult. They wanted Palestine to be crushed before they would agree to underwrite a few moth-eaten protectorates that they would supervise indefinitely. They wanted Hamas destroyed. The PLO agreed. The recent assault on Gaza was carried out with the approval of Abbas and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, not to mention Washington and its EU. The PLO sold out in a literal sense. They were bought with money and treated like servants.”

(Total Capitulation by Tariq Ali)

The details indicate that Annapolis was the most serious attempt so far at reaching an Israeli-Palestinian deal. The Bush team facilitated the removal of 25 Israeli settlements from Gaza and the West Bank in 2005, and pushed for a final-status deal in Annapolis as well post-Annapolis talks. The new round facilitated by Obama team has stagnated, hard line government in Israel is not so eager for compromises and Hamas still has remarkable support among Palestinians being as well the real authority in Gaza strip.

It is claimed that the documents could well destroy the Palestine Liberation Organization, a coalition of parties that includes Fatah, which is led by Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Can Fatah survive being discredited to this extent, the time will tell. However the papers, especially the leaked maps, will serve as the starting point for future negotiations.

How the peace process will continue is depending first if/how political leadership of Israel and PA is transforming, second ongoing events in Egypt and Lebanon may have their influence, third indirect Israel-Syria peace talks (“giving up the Golan”) may help peace in north. The most important outside factor may be if there is any progress with negotiations about Iran’s nuclear program.

From my point of view the bottom line is that based on PaliLeaks the peace agreement was more near than ever since 1967 at least with PA. Also two-state solution was and maybe still is realistic – although without Gaza. Despite this in my opinion creating a new Palestinian state in fragmented West Bank is not a viable – or even desired – solution, not economically nor from administrative point of view. A Jordanian option for WB would be more sustainable and three-state solution for WB, Gaza, region and its population.

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BalkanBlog, crisis management, Middle-East, Yemen

Fragments of the Middle East peace efforts

With the recently launched Palestinian-Israeli peace talks receding into a state of limbo and while Yemen is slowly disappearing from headlines a smaller stories from the Middle East are going on in the marginals of western mainstream media. However these some times crueler actions may change situation on the ground even more than high level official diplomacy.


Knesset. Jerusalem

News from peace talks too often are limited to photo opportunity to see negotiators and host making theatrical handshake – of course studying the outcome of talks one has some base to claim that this staging indeed was the (only) content of meeting. However outside cabinets in theatre of operations actions are following one another although they are not dominating front pages of mainstream media. Here I have collected some fragments of information flow from first part of November.

U.S. strikes to Gaza

A missile fired from an American warship in the Mediterranean hit the car in which Muhammad Jamal A-Namnam, 27, was driving in the heart of

Missile struck Al Qaeda operative's car in Gaza, made by U.S.

Gaza City Wednesday, Nov. 3 and killed him. Namnam was an operational commander of the Army of Islam, Al-Qaeda’s Palestinian cell in the Gaza Strip. He was on a mission on behalf of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – AQAP to plan, organize and execute the next wave of terrorist attacks on US targets after last week’s air package bomb plot. The Al Qaeda operative’s death by a US missile is the first American targeted assassination in the Gaza Strip against an Al Qaeda target. Up until now, US missions of this kind took place in Iraq, Yemen and Somalia. (Source: DEBKAfile)

U.S. aids both sides with different methods

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced Wednesday that $150 million dollars in direct aid was being transferred to the Palestinian Authority. The latest U.S. aid brings the amount of direct funding for 2010 to $225 million and total assistance to the Palestinian Authority including that through third parties to $600 million, Clinton said. Same time the U.S. government is to move an additional $400 million worth of military equipment to emergency storage in Israel over the next two years. Equipment to stand at Israel’s disposal in an emergency; hike will bring the value of American military equipment stockpiled in Israel to $1.2 billion by 2012. (Source: Haarez)


Other side of refugee issue

Speaking about refugees in the Middle-East a new initiative promoted by the Foreign Ministry calls on Palestinians to “recognize Jews who exiled from Arab lands as refugees.” According to the initial outline of the plan, Israelis hailing from Arab countries will be eligible to demand financial compensation for the property they left behind. “We must remember that more than 850,000 Israelis came from Arab lands without any property, and therefore they are considered refugees. It is definitely an issue that must be raised during our negotiations on a permanent agreement,” said Deputy Defense Minister Danny Ayalon. (Source: Ynetnews)


Targeted killing authority

Lawyers for the Barack Obama administration told a federal judge Monday that the U.S. government has authority to kill U.S. citizens whom the executive branch has unilaterally determined pose a threat to national security. That claim came in federal court in Washington, D.C. in response to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). The two human rights legal advocacy organisations contend that the administration’s so-called “targeted killing authority” violates the constitution and international law. The ACLU and the CCR were retained by Nasser Al-Aulaqi to bring a lawsuit in connection with the government’s decision to authorise the targeted killing of his son, Anwar Al- Aulaqi. (Source: Obama Lawyers Defend “Kill Lists” By William Fisher).

These “democratic” western values are not so unknown to Yemeni as a Yemeni judge ordered police Saturday to find a radical US-born cleric – Anwar al-Aulaqi – “dead or alive” after the al-Qaida-linked preacher failed to appear at his trial for his role in the killing of foreigners. (Source. Jerusalem Post/AP)


US Predator UAVs now in Yemen – the drone war is expanding

Targetted killing of Anwar al-Aulaqi is coming easier now. In the first week of November, directly after the discovery of two explosive parcels mailed from Yemen to the United States, Washington moved a squadron of Predator drones to a secret base at the Yemeni Red Sea port of Al Hodaydah. Until now, the covert facility – finished in April on a site CIA director Leon Panetta has selected last January – was allotted to US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) units for mounting clandestine raids against Al Qaeda cells deep inside Yemen.

Al-Qaeda in Yemen

Yemen has so far claimed that the war on Al Qaeda is carried out exclusively by the Yemeni army, however for some time now, US warplanes and drones have been crisscrossing Yemeni skies from their bases in Djibouti and the decks of aircraft carriers offshore. Officials in Sanaa have habitually claimed those sorties were the work of the Yemeni air force, although it has neither the aircraft nor the air crews able to conduct these precision attacks. DEBKAfile‘s Middle East sources note that it is the first time in seven years that US air strike forces are stationed on Arabian Peninsula soil. In 2003, the American Air force dismantled its Saudi base and withdrew to Qatar and Oman.

US Predator - Now in Yemen too

In Washington there is debate going on whether the drone war should be conducted by the U.S. military or the CIA. Both the CIA covert operations directorate and U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) brass regard the outcome in Yemen as the key to the larger struggle over control of a series of covert wars that the Obama administration approved in principle last year. The CIA directorate and the two major figures in the Iraq- Afghanistan wars, Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, lobbied Obama in 2009 to expand covert operations against al Qaeda to a dozen countries in the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and Central Asia. On Dec. 17, less than three months after the Petraeus order, a cruise missile was launched against what was supposed to have been an al Qaeda training camp in Abyan province in south Yemen. The Yemeni parliament found that it had killed 41 members of two families, including 17 women and 23 children. After this and later strikes and when JSOC stumbled badly and failed to generate usable intelligence on al Qaeda targets, the CIA went on the offensive to get the administration to take control of the drones away from the SOF. (Source: DEBKAfile and IPS)

Attacking Iran?

Obama may save Presidency by attacking Iran

At a special White House security consultation last week, Obama said it was time to plant America’s military option against the Iranian nuclear threat visibly and tangibly under the noses of Iran’s political and military decision-makers. In the last few days, three aircraft carriers, four nuclear submarines and marine assault units have piled up opposite Iranian shores. Early Sunday, the influential Senator Lindsey Graham (R. South Carolina), member of the Armed Services and Homeland Defense committees, said: “The US should consider sinking the Iranian navy, destroying its air force and delivering a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guards.”As part of this strategy, two weeks ago, the White House requested the heads of NATO to draw up operational plans for attacking Iran’s nuclear and military facilities.


Axle of Gaza-Damascus-Tehran

A further round of conciliation talks between PLO/Fatah and Hamas broke up in Damascus Wednesday, Nov. 10, without accord. The Fatah delegation insisted that the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas be the sole sovereign authority for all security services in both territories, Hamas didn’t agree. This dispute will decisively influence the US-sponsored talks between Israel and the Palestinians – if they ever take off. It means that the only accommodation attainable would be, at best, a partial one covering only the West Bank.

Same time the Hamas government’s deputy foreign minister Dr. Ahmed Yousef is actively campaigning for the Gaza regime to form a strategic partnership with Iran on the same lines as the Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah alliance. He also invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit Gaza. Close ties between Gaza and Tehran will bolster the Palestinian extremists’ military and intelligence ties with Damascus and Hizballah. This will in turn boost the bloc led by Iran and Syria and add to its leverage for derailing any fence-building moves between the feuding Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah and perpetuate the division between the two Palestinian entities – one in Gaza and the other on the West Bank. This stronger alliance may also threaten the stability of Jordan, where already Hamas-Damascus controls the local Muslim Brotherhood branch.

The evolving partnership between Hamas and Iran and its negative impact on the prospect of an Israel-Palestinian peace may be the key determinant of the impasse between Israel and the Palestinians in recent weeks – not, as claimed in Washington and Jerusalem, the row which has sprung up over 1,300 new Israeli apartments in old-established East Jerusalem suburbs. (Source: DEBKAfile)

My related articles:

The Three-State Option could solve Gaza conflict”

Gaza War: Could Balkan history show way out?”

Will (East) Jerusalem be the End of Two-State Illusion?

Placebo effect for people and society with 20 bn bucks”

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